First Look at the Kno iPad App: WTF?

Kno set out to reinvent the textbook with a proprietary hardware/software solution. After the iPad took off Kno did a hard pivot to become a software solution. Yesterday, Kno rolled out the Kno iPad App. After taking the Kno iPad app for a spin, all I have to say is: WTF?

Remarkably, the Kno app has a WTF button. The WTF button concisely sums up my impression of the Kno app. WTF? An app targeted to the primary, secondary, and higher ed market has a WTF button? We all know that WTF is short hand for what the fuck. Right? Um, not in Kno-land. In Kno-land WTF stands for Words To Friends. Huh?

What else does the Kno offer? Stickies and highlighting! Who-hoo! The ability to add notes and to highlight key passages are basic study tools. The highlight tool worked intermittently for me. Can I search my notes or highlighted passages within a book? Across all of my Kno books? Unclear. I can with the Kindle app.

Navigation within a book? I like the option of chapter level navigation and to then drill down to sub sections within a selected chapter. The Kno lacks, as far as I can tell, chapter level navigation. Navigation occurs via a tedious page oriented nav system in which each page is represented as a rectangle with the page number on it. Chapter home pages are designated, but selecting them simply takes you to the first page of the chapter. The sample Psychology text included with the Kno app download, has chapter front pages formatted with what appear to be links to the section. Nope, they are faux links. WTF?

How do book and PDF files render in the Kno app? OK. At times, pages of the sample textbooks would render larger than the screen of my iPad 2 and no amount of shaking, pinching, or flicking would readjust the page to fit the screen properly. I find the Kindle App provides a better reading experience.

Can the Kno reader play interactive media? It appears it cannot. Kno appears locked into a vision of textbooks locked into the dead tree text era. WTF?

The Kno app offers an academic calendar metaphor for grouping together books or materials rendered in PDF format. Assets can be grouped into Courses. Courses can be grouped into terms. This organization seems appropriate only for courses that have relatively few assets.

Ultimately, the Kno app appears to be little more than a ebook store. One can purchase books from the Kno store that are downloaded into the Kno app. Presumably, these books are accessible exclusively via the Kno app. Pricing? I shopped the Kno Bookstore for several titles I use in my classes. In each case, Kno is offering the book for the full sticker price of the dead tree edition. WTF?
Let's take a look at how the Kno fares against my eTextbook dream criteria:

1. Device independent? No. the Kno currently lives on the iPad exclusively.
2. Platform independent. No. iOS only.

3. Consistent reading experience. As the Kno is iOS only this is an n/a

4. No connection required. Yes. Once material have been downloaded to the iPad, an active internet connection is not required.

The Kno App scores a one out of a possible four.

Another challenge facing the Kno is that it does not appear to interact with learning management systems (LMS). For the Kno to be useful in the higher ed context, it is essential that faculty can distribute class assets via the LMS and that students can easily pull those assets into their working environment. The Kno App appears to be an island in a land of LMS connectivity.

Ultimately, the Kno App's value proposition eludes me. Why would anyone purchase etext (or other) books from the Kno Bookstore as opposed to, say the Kindle bookstore or CourseSmart? The Kno App offers no apparent distinctive difference that enhances value to students, faculty, or institutions.

Don't Kno.

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